Toronto Cemetery Sojourns: Park Lawn

As Halloween approaches, we are surrounded by images of death. Most focus on the ghoulish aspects, from bony skeletons to creepy tombstones with punny names for the deceased. But the mock graveyards decorating residential lawns bear little resemblance to Toronto’s real cemeteries. Instead of depressing, scary final resting places, these spaces are full of life.

During the Halloween seasons in 2011 and 2012, I wrote a series of articles for Torontoist on the city’s cemeteries. This year I’m mixing those pieces with updates and new stories. This piece was originally published on Torontoist on November 2, 2012.

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Nestled south of Bloor Street between the Kingsway and Bloor West Village, Park Lawn Cemetery fits nicely with the green parks lining the Humber River. You could spend hours wandering its grounds and enjoying the flora and fauna.

History

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Park Lawn Cemetery entrance, circa 1941. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 460.

The graveyard opened in 1892 as Humbervale Cemetery. Funding came from stock sales, with many of the shares held by local farmers. The cemetery was sold in 1912 to a purchaser who promised to maintain the graveyard, but whose true intentions were to transform the property, including the sections occupied by the dead, into a subdivision.

Several former shareholders formed the Humbervale Cemetery Defence Association to, according to the Star, “prevent any desecration of the property.” One defender pleaded with the paper to publicize their battle, which had made little impression on local politicians. “I beg of you for the sake of humanity to give this cause a place in your columns,” the anonymous letter writer wrote, “for if this deal is allowed to go through, with the sanction of one of the highest office in the land, then it means that no place, however sacred, is safe from the attack of the vandal and the land shark, and our boasted civilization is myth.”

The cemetery’s defenders were victorious. The property was sold in 1915 to the Park Lawn Cemetery Company, who gave the site its current name.

Grounds

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Park Lawn is almost completely covered by a canopy of trees, making it a beautiful place to wander on a fall day. Instead of private crypts and extensive landscaping, it has an attractive natural beauty that appeals to humans and other large animal species.

Notable Names

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A large number of Toronto sports figures rest here. Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe probably still curses fellow Park Lawn resident Harold Ballard for removing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II from Maple Leaf Gardens to install more seating, soon after Ballard bought the team. And there likely aren’t any kind words exchanged between Smythe and Harvey “Busher” Jackson, one-third of the Leafs’ “Kid Line” during the 1930s. For years, Smythe blocked Jackson’s election to the Hockey Hall of Fame, because of Jackson’s supposed character flaws. When voters overlooked Jackson’s alcoholism and womanizing to admit him in 1971, Smythe resigned his presidency of the Hall of Fame. Smythe’s beyond-the-grave battles are probably being chronicled by Lou Marsh, the Star sports editor whose name graces the trophy awarded annually to Canada’s best athlete.

Other notables include writer/broadcaster Gordon Sinclair, politicians Stanley Haidasz and John MacBeth, and musician Jeff Healey.

Favourite Spots

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Park Lawn is a prime spot for the local Polish and Eastern European community’s observations of All Saints Day. The grounds were filled this week with those placing flowers and lit candles on the graves of loved ones.

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We were charmed by a tombstone resembling a building. Other markers commemorate first dates and remind the living that “a man rarely succeeds at anything unless he has fun doing it.”

Sources: Etobicoke From Furrow to Borough by Esther Hayes (Etobicoke: The Borough of Etobicoke, 1974), and the October 21, 1913 and June 24, 1914 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Letter to editor, Toronto Star, June 24, 1914.

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Toronto Star, July 7, 1914.

Toronto Cemetery Sojourns: Richview

As Halloween approaches, we are surrounded by images of death. Most focus on the ghoulish aspects, from bony skeletons to creepy tombstones with punny names for the deceased. But the mock graveyards decorating residential lawns bear little resemblance to Toronto’s real cemeteries. Instead of depressing, scary final resting places, these spaces are full of life.

During the Halloween seasons of 2011 and 2012, I wrote a series of articles for Torontoist on the city’s cemeteries. This year I’m mixing those pieces with updates and new stories. This piece combines a story originally published by Torontoist on October 29, 2012 with a “Ghost City” column published online by The Grid on June 11, 2013.

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It seems like a strange location for a graveyard. Tucked within the massive interchange of Highways 401 and 427, Richview Memorial Cemetery stands calmly amid the traffic chaos surrounding it. The heritage site provides the final resting place for members of western Etobicoke’s pioneer farming families.

History

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To read the plaque, check out Toronto’s Historical Plaques.

Though burials were made onsite as early as 1846, Richview wasn’t officially a graveyard until the Union Chapel was completed, around 1853. According to a historical plaque, farmer William Knaggs (who is buried at Richview) sold the land that became the cemetery for use as “a chapel and lot without belonging to any particular church or denomination, to be respectively devoted exclusively to religious purposes in the discretion of certain trustees.”

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The congregation nearly split when the church acquired a pipe organ from Cooke’s Presbyterian Church in Toronto in 1855; several members believed that music was a form of devilish temptation. Perhaps they were on to something, as legend has it the organ met its demise in a barn fire before it could be installed.

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Map depicting location of Union, later Richview, taken from the Illustrated Historical Atlas of York (Toronto: Miles & Company, 1878). The east-west road through Union would become Richview Sideroad, then Eglinton Avenue. Future Highway 27/427 runs north/south through Union. The road to the west became Renforth Drive, while the road to the east became Martin Grove Road. Modern-day Rathburn Road runs along the bottom of the map. For the full map of Etobicoke Township, check out Historical Maps of Toronto.

Up until the late 1880s, the intersection was known either as Union (after the church) or Kit’s Corners (after blacksmith Christopher “Kit” Thirkle). It became known as Richview after 1887, when a post office bearing that name moved south from present-day Airport Road. The Knaggs family offered more land to build a larger church, which opened as Richview Methodist in 1888. The new building, renamed Richview United in 1925, was a gathering spot for local farmers to enjoy activities ranging from crokinole tournaments to oyster suppers.

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Richview’s long run as a quiet farming community ended in the 1950s with the encroachment of suburbia. The cemetery and church found themselves in an isolated island in the middle of the interchange of Highways 27 and 401. The church was demolished soon after its last service was held in February 1959, with the congregation moving into its present home on Wellesworth Drive west of present-day Highway 427 three years later. Cemetery trustees resisted moving the dead, leaving local pioneers undisturbed amid the growing volume of traffic around them.

Maintaining Richview Cemetery proved handy when development elsewhere in Etobicoke crept toward pioneer burial grounds. During discussions of how to move remains from Willow Grove Burial Grove on Rexdale Boulevard to Richview in January 1968, Etobicoke councillors couldn’t resist cracking jokes. When the cemetery board chairman was asked to provide more information on relocation logistics, one councillor told him to “keep digging.” Around 110 bodies were moved to the south end of Richview in 1970, followed by re-interments from the McFarlane Cemetery on Dundas Street West.

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Around 300 people are estimated to be buried in Richview, of which only 90 have markers. Only descendants of those resting there can buy plots. The most recent burial was Victor Kimber, who maintained the grounds for over 40 years before he died in 2005. Kimber’s burial revealed one problem with holding services at the site—traffic roaring by on Highway 427 made it difficult to hear the minister.

Grounds

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Finding the entrance is tricky if you aren’t paying attention. A hidden driveway runs south from Eglinton Avenue, just west of the exits from the surrounding highways. The road leads to a high, gated fence, which may or may not be locked when you arrive.

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Don’t expect a tree-shaded vista: grass and shrubs provide the only hints of greenery. What you will see are plenty of century-old tombstones mixed in with historical plaques telling the cemetery’s story. Around 300 people are buried in Richview, with the oldest tombstone dating to 1846. While some markers have been restored, age and vehicle exhaust threaten to make others illegible.

“This is a final resting place,” local historian Randall Reid told the Globe and Mail in 2006. “That has to be respected.”

Notable Names

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At least one family name is recognizable, if only because of the Etobicoke road named after them: Dixon.

Favourite Spots

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Several tombstones provide glimpses into the lives of those buried below them. Take Elizabeth Coulter, who passed away at age 22, in November 1852. Though her marker is missing a few pieces, enough remains to hint at the pain surrounding her passing:

Affliction sore long time I bore
Physicians were in vain,
Till God was pleased to send me [home?]
And free me of my pain.
Repent in time make no delay
I in my bloom was called away.

Sources: Etobicoke Remembered by Robert A. Given (Toronto: Pro Familia, 2007), Villages of Etobicoke (Etobicoke: Etobicoke Historical Board, 1985), the October 28, 2006 edition of the Globe and Mail, and the January 4, 1968 and October 20, 1987 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Globe and Mail, January 4, 1968.

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Toronto Star, October 20, 1987.

Family Living, Downtown Style

This installment of my “Retro T.O.” column for The Grid was originally published on July 17, 2012.

Last week, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday mused that the city’s core “is not the ideal place” to raise a family. His sentiments about children playing in traffic on busy arteries aren’t anything that hasn’t been heard before, however wrong they are: families who have chosen to live deep downtown have long heard arguments about the suitability of such an environment for their children, especially from committed suburbanites like Holyday.

During a meeting of the Washington, D.C.–based Urban Land Institute (ULI) in Toronto in May 1985, planners, developers, and investment advisors reviewed the city’s plans to redevelop the railway lands north of the Gardiner Expressway. They concluded that the city’s vision of having families eventually living there ran counter to the ways in which downtowns ought to be saved. Sounding not unlike Holyday, ULI president Claude Ballard said that children should be raised outside the core, in neighbourhoods where they could walk to school or rescue balls that rolled out into the street with minimal fear of being run over. Downtown living of the future, the argument went, was for empty-nesters who required less space once their offspring left home. In a rebuttal printed in the Globe and Mail, Toronto-based planner Ken Greenberg rejected Ballard’s vision, noting that “it is Toronto’s unwillingness in the past to follow conventional North American wisdom” on issues like encouraging families to live downtown that “goes a long way toward explaining why we have the much admired vitality, safety, and cleanliness on our streets.” Greenberg was likely referring to recently developed neighbourhoods like St. Lawrence, where mixed incomes and a large number of co-ops let its residents foster a community where children could enjoy a less homogenous upbringing than their parents had.

Eighteen years later, the Star profiled several families who had moved into condos and lofts in the core. Parents interviewed in the May 2003 article praised, as one parent put it, the “complete and full spectrum of life in the city” that their kids enjoyed steps away from home. Shorter commutes to downtown jobs provided more time for families to spend together during the work week. All enjoyed the ability to walk everywhere, which was a big draw for former Brampton resident Lisa Voutt. Despite friends and relatives in the burbs thinking she was “kind of nuts” for moving her family into a loft near St. Lawrence Market, Voutt enjoyed being freed from a car-centric lifestyle and noted the confidence with which her preteen daughters got themselves around the core by foot or TTC, and the large number of nearby activities they participated in.

Also interviewed for the article was Adam Vaughan, who had recently moved with his daughter into a condo not far from his job at the time as a CityTV reporter. “I wanted a place that was close to the culture of the city, the galleries, the music, and close to the politics of the city,” he told the Star. “All the things that were important to me. I wanted my daughter to understand how her father related to the city and have her relate to the city.” After he was elected to city council three years later, Vaughan advocated a 10 per cent requirement for three-bedroom units in developments to aid families experiencing problems with finding enough space to live in. Developers shot back that they had trouble competing with suburban projects on price, which meant the larger units were often among the last to sell.

Doug Holyday’s long-held views on where families should live, and his belief in the supremacy of market forces on determining housing stock, shouldn’t make his most recent comments a surprise. As an Etobicoke alderman in the mid-1980s, he opposed that city’s proposals to limit the number of apartment buildings that were designated for adult occupancy only. In a period where vacancy rates were low, families looking for apartments in Etobicoke—especially those with lower incomes—sometimes settled for sub-par dwellings as one landlord after another rejected their applications. Holyday blamed provincial rent controls, and housing activists who he felt exaggerated the problems that tenants faced.

His views didn’t win the day, as the provincial government banned adult-only apartment buildings (apart from seniors’ complexes and structures with four units or less) in December 1986. Holyday’s hate-on for rent controls didn’t fade—when Toronto city council voted in April 1999 to establish a task force to make the restoration of controls scrapped by Premier Mike Harris’s government an issue during the next provincial election, Holyday was the lone councillor to oppose the motion.

Additional material from the March 5, 1985, May 6, 1985, and May 14, 1985 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the May 11, 2003 and June 26, 2008 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Editorial comment: It’s easy to notice my contempt towards Doug Holyday in this piece. His political persona represented much of what I hate in a certain strain of suburban conservative politicians, especially in the knows-the-cost-of-everything-and-the-value-of-nothing department. His son Stephen carries on his proud tradition of Etobicoke troglodytism (that should be a word) as a current Toronto city councillor.

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Toronto Star, February 21, 1985.

Bonus Features: Ontario’s hockey-star MP

Before diving into this post, check out my TVO article about Red Kelly’s political career.

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From the Toronto Star Archives at the Toronto Public Library comes this picture by Frank Grant of the Kellys entering Parliament in 1962. The description: “There’s overtime in this league. Parliamentary rookie Red Kelly, flanked by a pair of Mounties, discusses House opening with wife, the former skating star Andra McLaughlin, before entering Parliament. Leaf hockey star is M.P. for York West.”

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Toronto Star, May 19, 1962.

The roster of Liberal candidates in Metropolitan Toronto during the 1962 election campaign. Among those depicted here are three future finance ministers (Gordon, Macdonald, and Sharp), two defence ministers (Hellyer and Macdonald) and a minister of state for multiculturalism (Haidasz).

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Globe and Mail, May 5, 1962.

The Globe and Mail‘s editorial on Kelly’s candidacy. While the paper’s editorial page would continue to criticize Kelly for continuing his hockey career, its sports pages cheered him on. “Why all this criticism of a professional athlete working at his job?” sports editor Jim Vipond wrote in his January 9, 1963 column. “Is this to insinuate that the lawyers, doctors, insurance agents, brokers, farmers, teachers and representatives of a baker’s dozen other professions and businesses in the House of Commons completely submerge their private interests in the public welfare? It’s a lovely thought but outside the cabinet not a realistic one. A bit of an Alice in Wonderland touch.”

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Maclean’s, June 2, 1962

When a reporter told Pearson on election night that Kelly had won York West, the Liberal leader replied, “Yes, wait till I see [Maclean’s editor] Blair Fraser.”

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Toronto Star, June 6, 1962.

Here’s Kelly’s response to the Maclean’s piece.

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Sports Illustrated, December 3, 1962.

Sports Illustrated published a three-page profile of Kelly as he settled into his parliamentary duties. Writer Arlie W. Schardt asked Maple Leafs coach/general manager Punch Imlach if he questioned Kelly’s decision to balance hockey and politics. “Sure, I had my doubts,” Imlach replied. “My theory is that a man can’t serve two masters. Red’s getting old. I felt he needed every possible day of rest and training. Instead, he missed part of training camp, where all kinds of rookies were making a beeline for him, anyway. They figured they’d take his spot because an old man would injure easier. No respect for our MPs, you see.”

Lester B. Pearson playing baseball with Red Kelly at Coronation Park in Oakville

Lester B. Pearson playing baseball with Red Kelly at Coronation Park in Oakville, May 9, 1962. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 563, File 31, Item 1.

In his memoirs, Lester Pearson reflected on campaigning with Kelly during the 1963 election campaign:

While motoring from one meeting to another, we noticed some youngsters playing ball in a vacant lot. We both thought it would be fun, and might interest our press entourage, if we stopped for a few minutes to watch. We also stopped the game because Red was soon recognized, and was surrounded by excited youngsters clamoring for his autograph.

He was somewhat embarrassed that no one took any notice of me, and asked one small boy, happily contemplating Red’s signature: “Don’t you want Mr. Pearson’s too?” The reply put me in my place: “Mr. Pearson? Who’s he?”

Even as prime minister, I had to accept that in the autograph market it would take five “L.B. Pearsons” to get one “Red Kelly.” My sporting experience helped me to accept this evaluation.

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Toronto Star, April 9, 1963.

Throughout the 1962 and 1963 election campaigns, NDP candidate David Middleton constantly attacked Kelly for riding on his fame, being inexperienced, and not putting 100% of himself into his political duties. Middleton’s reaction to his second consecutive third place finish seems a little melodramatic. His 2010 obituary outlines an active life.

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Toronto Star, October 18, 1967.

During the 1963 federal election campaign, Alan Eagleson attacked Kelly for being an absentee MP. Later that year, he became an MPP for the provincial riding of Lakeshore. Based on this article, it seems Eagleson may have had his own attendance issues during the period in which he became the first director on the National Hockey League Players’ Association.

Based on Kelly’s account, Eagleson was not a gracious competitor during the 1963 race for York West. “I heard years later that Eagleson purposely sought the Conservative nomination in York West just to beat me!,” he recalled in The Red Kelly Story. “I never heard a peep from Eagleson that night, not a word. He never called, conceded, said congratulations, nothing.”

Vintage Toronto Ads: Have a Honky-Tonkin’ Happy New Year

Originally published on Torontoist on December 31, 2014.

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Weston Times-Advertiser, December 22, 1964.

For many, music is a vital component of their New Year’s Eve celebrations. Hitting the dance floor, listening to a live act, or gathering around a piano to sing old favourites help glide the transition into another year.

In the 1960s, finding the nearest honky-tonk piano player or turn-of-the-century-inspired performer helped some Torontonians mark the calendar change. Across North America, genres like ragtime and barrelhouse piano music experienced a revival, sending bars like the New Toronto Hotel in search of the nearest musicians with striped shirts and 1890s-styled gowns. It was kitschy, but it allowed audiences to get into the spirit of things by encouraging them to drop their reserve and merrily sing along.

Pianist Charlie Young chalked up the revival to fatigue with a scary new musical style. “People just grew sick of rock ‘n’ roll,” he told the Star in 1962. “Rock had nothing for the older ones, or indeed anyone from 35 up. They turned to ragtime.”

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Globe and Mail, December 18, 1961.

Club 76, named after its location on 76 St. Clair Avenue West, claimed to have started the old-timey music trend in Toronto. Owner Bob Cook opened his establishment in August 1959 after listening to ragtime pianist Bob Darch perform while vacationing in the Bahamas. Cook booked Darch as his first headliner, who was soon followed by Young, whose act relied on a century-old piano he found filled with sand in a Colorado hotel. To enhance the nostalgic atmosphere, silent movies were run simultaneously.

Musicians who latched onto forms of old-time piano scrambled to find ways to stand out as bars and lounges joined the bandwagon. “Honky-tonk piany hasn’t even scratched the surface in Toronto,” observed Maxe Sherman during a tenancy at the Concord Tavern’s Gaslite Room in 1961. “But you still have to have a gimmick.” For Sherman, that involved becoming a one-man band whose act included foot-operated maracas and tap-dancing on his piano stool.

One of the most popular venues was the Gay Nineties Room at the Brown Derby Tavern (now the site of 10 Dundas East). For seven years, singer Georgina Rogers and pianist Jimmy White led nightly honky-tonk and ragtime singalongs. The pair played in a Latin-themed band in a local hotel before launching their tenancy at the Brown Derby in 1960. Regular patrons were occasionally given the chance to warble a verse or two on their own. Among those joining in was opera star Teresa Stratas; the first time Rogers noticed Stratas, she went over to her table. “Say, you’ve got a nice voice,” Rogers joked. “You should take this up.”

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Toronto Sun, December 28, 1972.

Around 1967, Rogers and White moved north to the Trophy Lounge at the Beverly Hills Motor Hotel on Wilson Avenue. Globe and Mail critic Blaik Kirby felt the move was a mistake: the space lacked the atmosphere and intimacy they enjoyed downtown, and the suburban audience wasn’t keen on singing along. By the early 1970s, White played a regular gig to a more appreciative crowd at the Barmaids Arms at Yonge and Davisville.

Back at the New Toronto Hotel, while George Small won’t be on hand to play all your old-time favourites this New Year’s Eve, the joint may still be jumping via its current incarnation: the Jay Jay’s Inn swingers club.

Additional material from the March 9, 1967 edition of the Globe and Mail, and the August 29, 1960, July 19, 1961, May 4, 1962, and March 28, 1964 editions of the Toronto Star.

UPDATE

As of the end of 2018, the New Toronto Hotel operates as The Westlake.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Toronto Sun, March 30, 1979.

When Jimmy White died in 1979, Sun columnist Paul Rimstead wrote about one of his last performances.

Vintage Toronto Ads: A&P

Originally published on Torontoist on July 22, 2015.

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The Globe, February 10, 1932.

At its peak, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company was the largest retailer on the planet. By the end of the 1920s, the grocer boasted up to 16,000 stores across the United States, Ontario, and Quebec. As late as the early 1960s, A&P could boast about its dominant size. But over half a century of decline may have culminated this week when the 156-year-old grocer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time in five years, leaving 296 stores up for grabs.

Contemplate those numbers the next time you ponder the size of today’s retail giants.

A&P arrived in Toronto in April 1928, a year after opening its first Canadian stores in Montreal. Within two years, 100 small locations dotted the city. Profiling the new stores in September 1928, Canadian Grocer was impressed with A&P’s efforts:

These stores are a combination of groceries and meats, and are pretty well standardized although they are not always exactly the same. They are attractively laid out with meats down one side, groceries opposite, and usually a big display refrigerator at the rear. One of the fundamental principles of the company is to display as many goods as possible in each of their stores. They also make a point of price-ticketing everything so that the customer does not have to ask the price of any line on view. Dotted here and there along the floor and in front of counters are several wire display stands each containing one particular line of goods and usually at a special price. The meat display counter is refrigerated by pipes that are cooled by machinery in the basement. The counter is glass-topped. While the meats on display cannot be touched from the outside, the salesman back of the counter has ready access to them and can easily pick out any cut desired.

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Toronto Star, March 13, 1930.

Many locations were placed near existing Dominion stores. Several press accounts noted how Dominion’s owners had previously worked for A&P, a factor which may have heightened the grocers’ rivalry.

The company invested $175,000 to build a combination bakery/head office/warehouse complex at the northeast corner of Laughton Avenue and Connolly Street in the city’s west end. Opened in December 1929, the facility’s perks included banana-ripening rooms and a laundry for store uniforms. “One is at once impressed with the spaciousness, wide and sunny offices, and the ordered cleanliness of the storage rooms,” the Globe observed.

The following decade saw a few hiccups that caused executives to down more than a few cups of Eight O’Clock Coffee. In 1933, city councillor Sam McBride charged A&P with providing inferior goods to customers using relief vouchers issued during the depths of the Great Depression. While denying McBride’s charges, an A&P official admitted they wash imported carrots. Alongside competitors like Loblaws and Simpsons, A&P was charged in 1935 with short-weighing goods.

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Globe and Mail, July 29, 1966.

By the mid-1960s, A&P’s American operations were declining. An aging board of directors failed to adjust to a changing marketplace, especially the emergence of suburbia. Small, crummy stores reeked of fatigue and wilting produce. Instead of re-investing its profits, management heeded calls to increase already generous dividends. Yet the picture in Canada appeared rosier: its program of store modernization was a model for the rest of the chain. In 1966, 20 acres of land on Dundas Street east of Highway 27 (now Highway 427) in Etobicoke were purchased for a new head office/warehouse/store complex, a facility still used by Metro today. To build local customer loyalty, A&P undertook promotions such as distributing flyers in English and Italian to west-end neighbourhoods.

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The Telegram, August 7, 1952. The Dundas/Browns Line location mentioned in this ad was A&P’s largest Canadian store to date. Perks included a 300-space parking lot, and aisles wide enough to accommodate 500 shoppers in the store at a time.

While American operations contracted following A&P’s purchase by Germany’s Tengelmann Group in 1979, the Canadian division benefitted from the demise of two major rivals. When Conrad Black’s Argus Corporation broke up Dominion in 1985, A&P picked up its Ontario stores, retaining the brand for its GTA locations. Five years later, Miracle Food Mart was acquired from the remnants of Steinberg’s, though that banner was phased out following a lengthy strike in the mid-1990s.

As the 1990s ended, A&P Canada was the company’s only profitable division. This provoked rumours of a sell-off to infuse funds into the flailing American operations. Suitor speculations ranged from Sobeys to Walmart. Quebec-based Metro won out in July 2005, and within five years rebranded all remaining banners apart from Food Basics.

Additional material from The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America by Marc Levinson (New York: Hill and Wang, 2011); the September 28, 1928 and July-August 1998 editions of Canadian Grocer; the December 10, 1929, May 24, 1933, and March 27, 1935 editions of the Globe; and the July 17, 1952 and August 17, 1965 edition of the Globe and Mail.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Toronto Star, May 7, 1928.

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Toronto Star, January 16, 1930.

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The Globe, May 7, 1931.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Fabulous Cloverdale Mall

Originally published on Torontoist on November 19, 2014.

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Globe and Mail, November 15, 1956.

In many ways, Cloverdale Mall fulfils the visions of early shopping-centre designers: a convenient, one-stop destination at the heart of a suburban community. As a 2013 profile of the mall in The Grid observed, “its very ordinariness and prosaic mix of shops is precisely what makes it so valuable to its customers.”

What Cloverdale lacks in flashiness it makes up for by serving its neighbourhood. Initiatives such as offering free temporary space for non-profit organizations and a “Heartwalkers” program for health-conscious shoppers demonstrate an awareness of the community’s needs.

The mall’s efforts have been rewarded, too: in 2007, Cloverdale won the inaugural Social Responsibility Award from the Canadian branch of the International Council of Shopping Centres for its fundraising campaign to build the city’s first free-standing residential hospice, the Dorothy Lea Hospice Palliative Care Centre.

There was a tinge of glitz to Cloverdale’s opening on November 15, 1956. The original 34-store section of the open-air plaza consisted of two rows of businesses separated by a 30-foot wide walkway. Tile mosaics designed by Joseph Iliu provided storefront decoration—the largest was a seven-by-19-foot panel on the west wall of the Dominion supermarket depicting fish, produce, and a cocktail glass.

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Globe and Mail, November 22, 1956.

Near Dominion stood the plaza’s major art installation, a 25-foot high sculpture by Montreal artist Robert Roussil known, depending on the source, as “Figures in Movement” or “Galaxie Humaine.” The work was made of British Columbia fir and covered in lead. “I think I have a normal Canadian viewpoint and this sculpture is designed for everybody,” Roussil told the Globe and Mail. “Like anything new it won’t take long for people to become interested. Whether they accept it or not is another matter.”

Businesses at Cloverdale quickly found ways to draw in customers. Major retailers such as Dominion benefitted from Etobicoke’s relaxed evening-shopping bylaws. Record store owner Wilf Sayer capitalized on the growing power of teen consumers. He began inviting them to his shop on Tuesday nights for listening sessions and dancing, offering pop on the house.

As the events became more popular, Sayer stopped subsidizing the drinks and moved the dances into the plaza. After 600 people showed up for the July 2, 1957 starlight dance, he turned the event into a biweekly affair. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Sayer encouraged parents to chaperone so they could “see for themselves that it is a wholesome evening of entertainment.” While the playlist included Elvis Presley and other early rockers, squares were pleased by the strains of Pat Boone and Andy Williams.

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Globe and Mail, July 17, 1960.

The mall gained a major anchor when Montreal-based department store Morgan’s opened a branch in August 1960. Globe and Mail advertorial columnist Mary Walpole wrote that the store “has an air of big town sophistication and which we think is a compliment to the people who go a-shopping there … whether it is mother and the carriage crowd in sun dresses and slims or smart suburbanites who might have stepped off the cover of Harper’s [Bazaar].” The Morgan’s space would later house The Bay, Zellers (which relocated from elsewhere in the mall), and Target.

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Etobicoke Gazette, August 5, 1976.

The mall, which was enclosed in 1976, has seen its ups and downs. But local retailers such as Hot Oven Bakery and Taylor Somers clothiers have stayed for decades, enhancing Cloverdale’s community-oriented feel and offering the mall some stability. Several other current tenants either have been around since the beginning (LCBO, Scotiabank) or are descended from early businesses (Coles, Metro).

Major retail announcements in Toronto increasingly tend to focus on high-end “prestige” outlets or cheap chic, so it’s reassuring that a pretension-free mall such as Cloverdale manages to survive, and to continue serving its community.

Additional material from the November 16, 1956, November 17, 1956, August 3, 1957 and August 19, 1960 editions of the Globe and Mail; the April 29, 2013 edition of The Grid; and the September 26, 2007 edition of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Globe and Mail, November 16, 1956.

gm 1956-11-17 cloverdale mall opens

Globe and Mail, November 17, 1956.

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Etobicoke Gazette, August 12, 1975.

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Etobicoke Gazette, August 19, 1975.